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The Morphology of Price Dispersion

  • Greg Kaplan

    ()

    (Department of Economics, Princeton University)

  • Guido Menzio

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

This paper is a study of the shape and structure of the distribution of prices at which an identical good is sold in a given market and time period. We find that the typical price distribution is symmetric and leptokurtic, with a standard deviation between 19% and 36%. Only 10% of the variance of prices is due to variation in the expensiveness of the stores at which a good is sold, while the remaining 90% is due, in approximately equal parts, to differences in the average price of a good across equally expensive stores and to differences in the price of a good across transactions at the same store. We show that the distribution of prices that households pay for the same bundle of goods is approximately Normal, with a standard deviation between 9% and 14%. Half of this dispersion is due to differences in the expensiveness of the stores where households shop, while the other half is mostly due to differences in households’ choices of which goods to purchase at which stores. We find that households with fewer employed members pay lower prices, and do so by visiting a larger number of stores, rather than by shopping more frequently.

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File URL: http://economics.sas.upenn.edu/system/files/14-002.pdf
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Paper provided by Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in its series PIER Working Paper Archive with number 14-002.

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Length: 60 pages
Date of creation: 27 Jan 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:14-002
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  1. Sobel, Joel, 1984. "The Timing of Sales," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 353-68, July.
  2. Greg Kaplan & Guido Menzio, 2013. "Shopping Externalities and Self-Fulfilling Unemployment Fluctuations," Working Papers 1461, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  3. Han Hong & Matthew Shum, 2006. "Using price distributions to estimate search costs," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(2), pages 257-275, 06.
  4. Mikhail Golosov & Robert E. Lucas, 2003. "Menu Costs and Phillips Curves," NBER Working Papers 10187, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. James Albrecht & Fabien Postel‐Vinay & Susan Vroman, 2013. "An Equilibrium Search Model Of Synchronized Sales," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 54(2), pages 473-493, 05.
  6. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2005. "Consumption versus Expenditure," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 919-948, October.
  7. Varian, Hal R, 1980. "A Model of Sales," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(4), pages 651-59, September.
  8. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-69, July.
  9. Butters, Gerard R, 1977. "Equilibrium Distributions of Sales and Advertising Prices," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(3), pages 465-91, October.
  10. Susan E. Woodward & Robert E. Hall, 2010. "Diagnosing Consumer Confusion and Sub-Optimal Shopping Effort: Theory and Mortgage-Market Evidence," NBER Working Papers 16007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Manolis Galenianos & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Nicola Persico, 2009. "A Search-Theoretic Model of the Retail Market for Illicit Drugs," NBER Working Papers 14980, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Conlisk, John & Gerstner, Eitan & Sobel, Joel, 1984. "Cyclic Pricing by a Durable Goods Monopolist," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 99(3), pages 489-505, August.
  13. Alan T. Sorensen, 2000. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion in Retail Markets for Prescription Drugs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(4), pages 833-862, August.
  14. Moraga-González, José Luis & Wildenbeest, Matthijs R., 2008. "Maximum likelihood estimation of search costs," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(5), pages 820-848, July.
  15. Liran Einav & Ephraim Leibtag & Aviv Nevo, 2010. "Recording discrepancies in Nielsen Homescan data: Are they present and do they matter?," Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 207-239, June.
  16. Benjamin Eden, 2013. "Price Dispersion And Demand Uncertainty: Evidence From Us Scanner Data," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 13-00015, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
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